DOE funds Ohio State, Babcock & Wilcox clean hydrogen R&D

Ohio State Chemical Engineering Distinguished University Professor LS Fan and Team

Good news for clean energy! Ohio State University Chemical Engineering and Akron-based Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), a leader and innovator in the energy transition, have been awarded more than $1 million in US Department of Energy (DOE) funding for bench-scale testing and development of a fixed bed chemical looping reactor for produce clean hydrogen generation from natural gas.

The award is part of a recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) effort providing $34 million in funding to 19 industry- and university-led research projects that will advance cutting-edge technology solutions to make clean hydrogen a more available and affordable fuel for electricity generation, industrial decarbonization and transportation.  

Nearly $1.5 million of the funding will support a collaboration between The Ohio State University and Babcock and Wilcox. Led by Distinguished University Professor and C. John Easton Professor in Engineering Liang-Shih Fan, the team will develop a fixed bed chemical looping process to produce hydrogen from natural gas with in-situ carbon dioxide capture using an iron-based mixed metal oxide composite (MMOC). The ultimate goal is to validate and scale up the MMOC-based fixed bed technology for hydrogen production and analyze its techno-economic impact. The fixed bed chemical looping system has been designed to operate in three reaction modes that can occur simultaneously for continuous hydrogen production: natural gas utilization through the reduction of MMOC; steam oxidation; and air regeneration.

Chemical looping is an advanced technology that offers several advantages over traditional combustion. In a chemical-looping system, a metal oxide, such as an iron oxide, provides the oxygen for combustion. The metal oxide reacts with the fuel in the reducer, donating its oxygen to produce a highly concentrated stream of carbon dioxide. The reduced metal cycles to an oxidation chamber, the combustor, where the metal oxide is regenerated by contact with air. The metal oxide is then reintroduced into the reducer, thus completing the loop. In addition to hydrogen, the process can produce power, synthesis gas, or a low-cost scheme for carbon capture, since CO2 separation occurs simultaneously with coal conversion. Professor Fan has invested much of the past three decades developing chemical looping clean energy technology.

Babcock & Wilcox has provided support for nearly 15 years on the technology’s development including as a strong partner on two large pilot-scale demonstrations: the operation of reforming at the U.S. National Carbon Capture Center for hydrogen generation, and combustion at the Babcock & Wilcox Research Center for heat generation. November 2021, Babcock & Wilcox licensed from Ohio State a chemical looping process and oxygen carrier particle used for decarbonization and the production of hydrogen, steam and/or syngas.

Electricity generated from clean hydrogen will help reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of achieving a zero-carbon American power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

“Clean hydrogen is one of our most versatile tools to slash emissions and forge a carbon-free pathway for a sustainable clean energy future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE is supporting the continued advancement of clean hydrogen technology making it cheaper to produce and easier to deploy, all while creating good-paying jobs in the process.”

Read more about Babcock & WIlcox BrightLoop™ hydrogen production and view other DOE selected projects.

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